This is a stupid story, and you'll probably be a little dumber for reading it. FYI. Wanted to give you fair warning. This is an ancient Japanese legend, so don't blame me for the content.
Side note, anyone else notice that ninjas don't move slow and sneak anymore? Every time we see them they're sprinting around jumping from roof top to roof top. How often do little children wake up and cry that they heard a monster on the roof only to be told "it's just some ninja running around" and that they need to go back to sleep?
How about the fights? They're always ambushes on tree branches or on a bridge. They always take much longer than a fight should take. Most have time for 15 minutes of internal dialogue between blows or the use of some kooky power.
This is a story passed down for thousands of years. Or, I just made it up. One of the two.
The ninja ran down the street. It was dark and no one was out. She pushed off from the ground and ran across the front of a building before jumping across to wall run on the opposite side too. You know, because why the fuck not? She pushed off the wall, aiming at the roof top. She'd misjudged her height. Thankfully, a window was below the roof ledge. She tucked into a ball and twirled through the window, landed on her feet. A family of seven watched, mouths agape, as the ninja ran through the room to the opposite window and jumped out. They were used to this to be honest. However, it's always annoying when ninja use your house as a short cut. Kaga, for that was this ninja's name, hit the ground running.
"Damn," she thought. "I'm smooth!"
She continued clack clack clacking her way down the street. Did I forget to mention that? Kaga wore a pair of knee high hard leather boots with laces all up the front. Round toed and with a slight heel, not that great at moving quiet. Still, she's a ninja (and she'd gotten them for her 19th birthday 4 months ago.) Maybe the sound is behind her, so she's doesn't notice? The angry old woman looking out a window frowning and shaking her head side to side sure noticed. The frown had just as much to do with the noise as it did with the way Kaga was dressed. The ninja girl wore a white with black trim sleeveless martial artist's gi (I think it's called that?) that was long enough to reach mid thigh. She also had a fishnet shirt underneath (again, why the fuck not?) and a long purple scarf covering her lower face and trailing behind her. Her brown hair was up in a high ponytail and bobbed from side to side as she ran. She also had at least two shorter swords, throwing knives on a thigh, a coil of rope, and several pouches here and there.
The old woman tisked at the impropriety of it. In her day, ninja all wore dark colored outfits, moved in the shadows, and if you could hear them you were about to get stabbed or knocked on the head. These younger ninjas were all flashy and cared about style. She closed her shutters and went back to writing some sweet Nobunaga fan fiction.
Kaga ran through the town. She was heading to a village about an hour (as the ninja runs) away for a class on something called "kinbaku." To become a certified ninja in the village of Somethingorother she needed to reach the required number of credits. Many of the courses were fun, but electives could be a real pain. Insert a bunch of bull shit filler text here about Ninja college and all that crap. The point is Kaga could have taken some silly class like ninpo basket weaving or modern dancing at her local school. Instead she enrolled in several classes at an out of village campus because it was near the beach and the coffee shop in town was, like, awesome. Priorities.
Regardless, the end result was her leaving town and having to cross the Tsumago bridge, a wooden bridge about 200 feet long across the Tsumago river which was made of water. Kaga's foot came down on the first plank and sound of her boots on a stone road turned into the sound of her boots on wood. It soothed her a bit. Nothing could go wrong tonight.
That's when she noticed that kimono clad figure walking across the bridge in the opposite direction carrying one of those paper umbrellas with birds on it. Kaga slammed on the breaks and crouched, attempting to hide in the shadow by the railing. She watched as the kimono clad figure came to a halt with the umbrella opened, covering the other person's upper body. The kimono was bright, full of yellows and reds and oranges. A crane peering out from a tiger and a bunches of flowers. She could make out white tabi socks and sandals several inches in height peaking from underneath the kimono.
"I'm pretty sure she hasn't seen me yet," Kaga thought to herself.
"I see you ninja," came a feminine voice from behind the umbrella.
"Shit," said Kaga.
Some time passed. Maybe 30 uncomfortable seconds of silence during which no one moved.
"Can you move please? I'm a ninja. I have... um... I have right of way," Kaga eventually said.
"There is room for us both," replied the kimono clad woman.
More time passed. A full minute this time.
"I will walk. Do what you will," said the colorful woman. She began walking down the bridge again, towards the ninja.
Kaga was speechless. Her mouth actually opened and closed several times without any sounds coming out. No one witnessed this due to the presence of her purple scarf, so you'll have to take my word for it. At this point, she had two clear choices. Option A (let's call it the reasonable choice) was her walking calmly across the bridge and continuing on her way. Option B (let's call it the bat shit response) was to do something bat shit crazy.
Kaga closed her left hand around the hilt of one of her wakizashi. She crouched, clenching and unclenching her toes inside her boots. The GALL of this woman, walking across a bridge when a ninja wanted to walk over it at the same time. There was plenty of space for them both, but Kaga deserved the entire bridge. She didn't want to share. She WOULDN'T share.
Kaga drew her sword as she launched herself at the umbrella carrying woman. The umbrella was still open, blocking any view of her face. Three quick steps and Kaga stabbed her sword forward through the umbrella, aiming for the head. A swirl of color to the side surprised Kaga, as the form a kimono billowed past. Kage turned to follow but her arm was stuck through the paper umbrella. She shook her arm several times, then finally grabbed the umbrella and tore it off before tossing it aside.
In case I need to spell it out for you, Kaga decided to go with option B because, well, why the fuck not?
Kaga looked around and saw the back of a colorful kimono walking away from her. Long black hair fell down the woman's back, kissing the top of the tied obi (belt.) The woman flowed across the bridge, taking small quick steps that allowed her to maintain the same height.
"Hey!" called Kaga. "What do you think you're doing?"
"I am walking, ninja," the woman replied.
"But- I ju- Didn't yo- Wha- J-just STOP!" Kaga stammered. The flustered ninja pulled her scarf down so she could breathe better and watched as the other woman kept walking. She didn't know what to do now. She'd expected to have a freshly stabbed woman laying on the bridge and pleasant trip onward. Kaga had never stabbed anyone before, but she didn't like missing either. She watched the woman walk away, feeling helpless. That's when she heard the voice of one of her masters in her head.
"Kaga. When you make a decision to do something, see it through. Do not let hardship get in the way. Now stop bothering me. It's the weekend. Go get a boyfriend or something."
Choice already made, she began to run at the retreating form. She closed the distance quickly and thrust her sword at the back of the woman's head, seeing as how the front of the head hadn't worked great last time. At this point she wasn't sure why she wanted to fight, she just knew she wanted to fight. Unfortunately it looked like the fight was about to be over.
Just as Kaga expected to feel the impact of skull and felt a little bad that she'd attacked someone, the woman moved slightly to the side and backed up. Kaga found her sword passing the woman's shoulder. Before she could retract the weapon she felt a strike on the back of her hand and her fingers opened. Her wrist was grabbed and the woman in the kimono spun backward towards Kaga, an arm coming up and thrusting at the ninja.
Kaga quickly yanked her arm down and stepped backwards in two quick steps before falling into a crouch, arms raised before her to defend. Her left fingers were a little numb and refused to make a solid fist. Her right hand reached up seeking the hilt of her other sword. Kaga could see her first sword sticking up from the wooden bridge just passed the other woman, who was now standing in a deeper stance. The woman's left leg was bent and took most of her weight. Her right foot was angled towards Kaga and in front of rest of her body. Her left arm was extended, palm out, while her right was balled into a fist near her cheek.
Kaga switched her grip from the sword to a throwing knife on her thigh. She quickly threw one, then another. From seemingly nowhere (probably one of the sleeves) and fan unfolded in the woman's hand. She pivoted and spun to her left, the fan catching one of the knives and tumbling away as the next one was dodged. Kaga grabbed more of her knives and let them fly as the woman in the kimono flowed like water. Kaga had time to marvel out how the long black hair trailed the woman's movements so hypnotically, and then she was out of knives as the last clattered away to plop into the water below.
The ninja started to draw her sword the moment the last knife left her hand as she realized only a few mere feet separated her and her opponent. The woman had closed the distance while she evaded the knives. Kaga drew her sword and went right into a downward swing but found the kimono clad form already too close. She tried to back away with her swing but couldn't make the room. One had was already going up to block the sword strike while the other was in the fist flying right at between Kaga's breasts. She had a moment to reconsider her life choices before the blow hit.
What air she had in her lungs went flying out as the punch nearly doubled her over. She lost her grip on the sword and couldn't even see where it went. A blur of bright colors came at her again and she barely blocked a blow to her ribs. Kaga tried to backpedal and regain her balance but the other woman moved with her. The ninja took a kick to the forearm the almost caught her in the head and attempted a punch herself, with the only reward a slap to her face.
Seeing an opportunity as the other woman changed stances, Kaga threw a front kick, intended to gain some space to recover. For a moment she'd thought her opponent vanished, then she was falling forward as her standing leg was swept out from under her. The ninja tried to break her fall but felt the arm she was trying to used pulled in the wrong direction and saw herself falling into a raising kimono clad elbow.
The next moment found Kaga on the ground trying to inhale. Her vision was fuzzy. She hurt. She was having trouble putting a coherent thought. In fact, if you were to ask her what she was in this moment, she wouldn't have been able to tell you. A stuffed animal? Maybe. A stick of celery? Possible. Someone that was struggling to inhale like a fish out of water? That's pretty close. She was on her hands in knees trying to remember how to breathe when someone grabbed her left booted foot and pulled. She collapsed flat against the bridge, not even enough strength to roll over as she was dragged away from the edge.
It was several minutes before Kaga could be considered conscious. She wheezed a bit. Dry heaved a few times. Probably blacked out completely. There was a time when her body didn't feel like her own, and another time when she could have sworn she was a sponge. At some point, probably less time than it felt like, she started to become aware of things happening around her. She was on her stomach. Someone was moving around the area. Someone was touching her occasionally. Someone was humming. Someone was humming something annoying.
She could wiggle her fingers and toes a bit, but everything else seemed to be fighting her. Her chest hurt. Her head hurt. Kaga didn't even remember getting hit in the head but she must have for it to hurt like this.
"Are you awake, ninja? I think you are," said a voice from above her. Kaga remembered the fight now. She's not sure why it even happened.
Kaga tried to move her arms so she could roll over and found a pressure on them. Something fighting her attempts to move. She was on her stomach both arms behind her. Kaga tried to turn her wrists and could feel the ropes holding them together.
"Ninja wouldn't be tied up if ninja wasn't so rude," said the woman as she took a break from humming.
Her head cleared enough to operate, Kaga tried moving her arms in different directions. She could feel ropes around her arms and across her chest. She could feel one going around and under her arms and across her shouldered that her hands were connected to. Her arms were bent at right angles, her hands near the opposite elbows. The ropes didn't feel very tight, but everything seemed intricate. She also noticed that there was rope around her thighs too.
Kaga wiggled her booted feet a little. She could probably still walk since her ankles were free. She had a brief memory of a kimono clad form walking away from her in small, quick steps and wondered why she wanted to start a fight in the first place. The ninja searched with her toes until she found one of the gaps between boards. She set her feet in that gap, pushed her butt in to the air, and pulled her upper body backward trying to sit up.
"Poor ninja," came from above her as a sandaled foot found Kaga's butt and pushed her back on to her face. Kaga turned her head so she wouldn't hit face first, but it still wasn't the best feeling of the night.
"If you can get free before Ina is done, you go free. Deal?" said the woman. Ina apparently.
"Can we just call it a draw?" said Kaga. She tried twisting her right hand out of the ropes holding it, but the ropes on her arms hindered side to side movement.
"You can call it what you like, ninja," said Ina. She sat down on Kaga's butt facing her legs and began looping rope around the ninja's ankles.
"Hey! We're good. You can let me go now," Kaga said. She wasn't making any progress on getting free. Now this crazy woman was tying her up more?
"Ninja better hurry," said the kimono clad woman as she finished tying Kaga's booted feet together. Kaga struggled, now that her head was clear and she could breath again. It wasn't helping though. She'd probably be able to free herself once she was alone, the ropes weren't that tight after all.
"Time's up, ninja," said the woman.
"Ok, so, what? You're going to leave me alone now?" asked Kaga.
"Sad, I know," said the woman. Standing, she grabbed Kaga's bound ankles and dragged her over to the side of the bridge.
"Hey, what are you doing? Come on, you're not throwing me in the river are you? This isn't funny!" yelled Kaga. She was getting concerned. Was this woman going to toss her, bound as she was, off the bridge?
"Ninja will be fine. Ninja can throw knife, then ninja can swim," said Ina as she pulled off the ninja's scarf.
"Wait! Not like this! You can't just toss me ove-mmph!" her plead became muffled as the woman neatly pulled Kaga's own scarf through her teeth and tied it behind her head.
"Sorry, ninja. See you later. I enjoyed our meeting," Ina said as Kaga screamed incoherently into the gag. "Bye," said Ina as she put a sandaled foot on ninja and kicked her over the side underneath the railing.
Kaga fell. She panicked. The black water grew closer. Closer.
Then the ropes tied to the railing ran out of slack and Kaga jerked to a sudden stop, bouncing back upward slightly at the sudden stop. Every rope around her had tightened with the weight of her body. He hands, previously across her lower back, were jerked high between her shoulder blades towards the rope across her shoulders. Her booted feet were pulled up and back down, spearing her heels into her butt. She'd only fallen a few feet, but it had felt like miles.
As relief that she wasn't about to drown filled Kaga, she heard a noise above her. The strumming of a biwa (japanese lute) and the sound of someone walking away. She let her head fall a bit and sighed, feeling her heart slow from her previous panic. Then, she tried moving. She could move her fingers. Her toes. Her head a bit. That was it. The ropes that had felt so loose to her moments before had tightened to make her utterly helpless. Then the reality set in. Kaga was hogtied and hanging underneath a bridge in the middle of the night.
The panic started up again. She screamed into the gag. She thrashed and yanked on her bonds. She could feel rope burn on her entire body. She bucked, or tried to. All she accomplished was making herself spin a little bit. After awhile, she exhausted herself. Kaga cried, helpless under the bridge.
Eventually, she began to test her bonds again. If anything, her thrashing had made some of it tighter. She came up with a plan. She was a ninja. Flexible. Agile. She would find a knot eventually. She would work it loose, and she would gain herself some more movement space to find another.
After an hour of trying, the only knot she found she could reach was the knot on her scarf. Then, only if she lifted her head up as high as she could manage. She thought on this as she strained at the knot. Her arms were tied and pulled so high on her back that the only knot she could reach was her gag on the back of her head. She almost had another panic attack with that thought but held it down.
Eventually the scarf came loose. Kaga had the presence to hold on to one end as it came free and pull it back up into her hand. Letting go would have sent it into the water below. After everything, she'd be angry to loose her purple scarf.
Thus, Kaga the kunoichi hung hogtied from the side of a bridge. She was sore, tired, embarrassed, and truth be told a little excited at the situation.
Kaga jerk her head up. She'd fallen asleep. It was day light out now.
"Hey! Down here!" she yelled up to the bridge. Twisting her head around as much as she can. Leaning her body a bit to her right and turning her head to the left, she was able to sort of see above her. A face looked down. A young man with a broad face and too close together eyes.
"Are you... ok? Down there?" he asked.
"I'm a ninja! I had a slight accident! Help me up!" Kaga yelled back up.
"Ninja! Don't get involved in ninja, son. There's no telling what's going on here," called another voice. An older sounding man.
"Wait! Don't leave me here!" cried Kaga.
"Remember that ninja that used our dining room as a short cut last night, son? You don't want involved in that type. Peasants like us have no business with ninja business," said the man to his son as the continued over the bridge.
Kaga screamed, pleaded, and cursed them as they walked away but they never once replied. She sagged in the ropes. At least this was a busy road. If she kept calling to travelers, hopefully the next one would help her. Maybe she wouldn't tell these ones she was a ninja before they helped her?
Thus ends the tale of the bound ninja on Tsumago Bridge. As legend goes, to this day if you cross the Tsumago Bridge in the middle night you can hear the faint creak of ropes and the even fainter sound of echoing obscenities.